Freeman Razemba Crime Reporter
Police have recovered 31 machetes and arrested seven people suspected to be in the business of making and supplying them to gangs that are terrorising mining areas and towns.
This followed a raid at Siyaso in Mbare, Harare, where the machetes were being manufactured and sold.
Siyaso is a home industry in Mbare where various implements are made for sale.
The arrests come as police Commissioner-General Godwin Matanga yesterday spoke strongly against the current wave of machete attacks on citizens across Zimbabwe.
He was speaking in his welcome remarks during a tour of Gweru Central Police Station by Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage Minister Kazembe Kazembe.
Machetes cost between US$6 and US$10 at Siyaso.
Sources said before “Operation Chikorokoza Ngachipere/No to Machete Gangs” was launched last week, there was a huge demand for machetes in mining areas.
“Information we have gathered is that some people were coming to buy machetes to protect themselves from attackers and that is why there was huge demand for these weapons,” said a source.
“Some of the people were coming from mines to buy machetes in Mbare. The sellers would sell more than 20 machetes per day.
“But when the operation was launched last week, the sales drastically went down as people were afraid of being found in possession of the machetes.”
National police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said on Thursday police raided Siyaso and Matapi in Mbare where they arrested the seven suspects.
“Yesterday (Thursday) we conducted raids at Siyaso and Matapi where seven accused persons were arrested for selling machetes to the machete gangs,” he said. “We recovered 31 machetes.”
Asst Comm Nyathi said some of the suspects escaped during the raid.
Police have, for the next three months, prohibited the carrying of weapons by members of the public.
Asst Comm Nyathi urged the public to heed prohibition notices in their respective areas.
Failure to comply with the order, he said, will render one guilty of an offence that attracts a jail term.
“In accordance with Section (4) (1) of the Maintenance of Peace and Order Act (MOPA) Chapter 11:23, Officers Commanding Police Districts, also known as regulating authorities, have now prohibited the carrying, whether openly or by concealment, in public places or public thoroughfares or public display of catapults, machetes, axes, knobkerries, swords, knives, stones or daggers or items capable of use as weapons and likely to occasion public disorder or a breach of peace,” said Asst Comm Nyathi.
Speaking at the Gweru event yesterday, Comm-Gen Matanga said: “Without mincing my words, I am disgusted by the violent nature of machete wielding criminals who are threatening to turn our country into an unsafe and uninhabitable place.
“Over the past few weeks, cases of these criminal elements masquerading as gold panners have been on the increase. Consequently, we have recorded a surge in cases of murder, rape, armed robbery, among other illicit activities.
“Apart from terrorising communities day and night, these hooligans are also invading legal mining claims killing many, including taking the lives of police officers. This is unacceptable. We can never allow criminals to do as they please while creating war zones, while we stand akimbo.”
Comm-Gen Matanga said the machete attackers’ days were “absolutely numbered”.
In Mashonaland Central Province yesterday, police embarked on awareness campaigns urging people to desist from illegal mining activities and carrying machetes as they risked being arrested and prosecuted.
The campaigns were mostly carried out in mining areas where such activities are rampant.
By Thursday, the number of illegal miners arrested countrywide in the week-long police operation to restore law and order in mining communities rose to 1 823, with the latest batch including a suspected member of the Ziga machete gang that allegedly killed Constable Wonder Hokoyo at Battlefields recently.